Johnny Green: Meet Your New Dealers


From top: Brendan Kennedy (left), CEO of Tilray and investor Peter Thiel; Johnny Green

On July 11 the announcement was made; meet Tilray (TLRY) your medical cannabis supplier, imported for distribution and sales, and dispensed in oral solution form on prescription.

Neither the bold Minister nor the HPRA made any announcement, nor are any details available at either’s web site detailing the decision process or the criteria applied that signed off this import licence.

Instead You and I, Patients and their Families, and everyone else must rely on Tilray‘s press releases and tweets; and since Tilray is a PLC (most of the time) their communications tend to be investor focused, and primarily aimed at nervous bankers and upstart analysts.

This should not surprise since Tilray’s CEO, Brendan Kennedy tBrendan Kennedy, is the same man that at the start of the equity fund that backed Tilray to get out of the ground.

Privateer Holdings as they say on the tin are equity specialist fund focused on Legal Cannabis start-ups, so Silicon Valley was as good a place as any to grow from.

Especially as the source of their own funds, the man behind their own curtains; Peter Thiel is no stranger to that community himself.

I can totally identify with Tilray communications policy mirroring the tone of a private equity fund.

But this is not how you inform the medical community who are required to accept responsibility for prescribing amongst other things, and as duly noted by the Irish Medical Journal themselves, and as pointed out here.

Likewise, for patients and their families and carers.

Is investor and analyst focus communications all anyone needs to know about the medicine being imported, without competition or alternatives for clinicians to treat Irish patients?

Meanwhile, we do know a few things about Tilray / Privateer and its biggest investor (and largest shareholder) Peter Thiel.

Before we go further, Peter Thiel has never really built anything, or designed anything, or even grown anything; besides money.  He is but a source of capital, undoubtedly one the most successful ones with an eye and a nose for start-ups that is rarely seen.

So you may not think anything of his funding of Hulk Hogan’s case against Gawker, it might have been clouded in secrecy but it catapulted this Ann Rand discipline onto the front pages along with its bankrupting Gawker.

For someone with a strong urge to protect and defend privacy rights, by litigious means if necessary (now who does that remind you of), he makes his donations to Donald Trump very public as well as his politics.

This post is really not about one of Tilray’s largest shareholders Peter Thiel, or his private life since there are servers of web pages, blogs and books dedicated to him; he’s even in today’s papers over comments suggesting that the FBI and CIA need to investigate Google for treason.   And supported with a Presidential seal;

Nor is he being introduced through his various investment funds and vehicles to suggest connecting dots with other funds close to the decision.

Peter Thiel being introduced here to further the point that Minister Harris and the HPRA need to approve other companies, and not just to have healthy competition but to provide patients and their care teams wider options.

Many people will find Thiel’s activities troubling, for example, one of his investments (Palantir) has significant contracts with ICE which has spurred on Facebook employees to have him resign from the board

If it is enough for employees of the company he was the first in with his $$$$$$$, then why shouldn’t anyone else, least of all the Country that hosts so much beneficial support for Facebook.

Tilray, in fairness, is a good company, and has funded research into Dravets syndrome.   Which you will be familiar with through the heroic efforts of Vera Twomey.

But when Tilray introduced this medicine in Canada it was ’sold at an introductory discount prices as well as in compassionate pricing program based on financial need’.

I am not going to incite any notion that the Minister or the HPRA didn’t negotiate any introductory pricing, besides, we can do a price comparison when the prescriptions start to get filled and judge for ourselves.

So, who will it get this onto those pharmacy shelves? Say hello to Novartis AG.

You will know them already as they have significant presence in Simon Coveney’s home ground in Cork.

But here’s how they will look like, and in the words of Tilray CEO and Privateer Founder Brendan Kennedy;

“If a product comes into a pharmacy with the Sandoz logo co-branded on it, or if a pharmaceutical sales rep is talking to a physician about a product that’s branded as Tilray and Sandoz, it lends credibility to that product.”

You would think that this big fat Greek scandal / may have caused the Irish Government to pause and consider the optics of awarding the first medicinal cannabis import license to a company controlled by Peter Thiel via a JV with this scandal ridden pharma company?  (Or even a journalist.)

Not a bit of it. It’s all right up their street with Big Pharma and Jobs for the Boys.

Have you noticed yet that this is the same company that was very kind to a Mr Cohen

He of the “U.S. President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen testified on Wednesday that Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG initially wanted him to lobby for the company when it retained him with a $1.2 million contract, but that Cohen refused.”

But what about the rest of us? Meaning you, well nothing actually.

Tilary has done a Websummit and chosen Portugal for its EU operations.  Ireland is good enough for Facebook and Paypal and all those Tilray big Pharma partners but not for Tilray’s EU HQ; anyone know why?

Far be it from us to know any better since Mr Kennedy is paid the big bucks to make those decisions, $250m last year as it happens. Beaten into second place for the year by Elon Musk; maybe next year Brendan.

No wonder Fine Gael Ministers are like teenage boys backstage at an Arianna Grande concert.

So, the good news is that medical cannabis should be in pharmacy drawers by the time Slade is back on in shops and elevators, but the bad news – your very typical Nothing to see here is being pulled over your eyes.

Ireland needs more to pick from than just Tilray.

Ireland needs to allow patients grow their own rather than service Big Pharma’s reps ‘commissions.

Ireland needs to roll out its own commercial producers.

Ireland needs an Independent Cannabis Regulator.

The Roll Up column by Johnny Green will attempt to keep Broadsheet readers up-to-date on the growing cannabis industry worldwide. Follow Johnny Green on twitter for even more updates.

Top montage: Joel Arbaje for Barron’s


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16 thoughts on “Johnny Green: Meet Your New Dealers

    1. eoin

      Also, from that Sunday Times article last weekend

      “European Cannabis Holdings, a private investment group from the UK, has forecast that the medicinal marijuana market in Ireland could be worth as much as €1.1bn by 2028.”

      MORE than a billion!

      1. Johnny Green

        Eoin we ran some internal numbers based on a few comps and a good rub my crystal ball and the total Irish market size rec/med pencils out closer 1.5 Billion,domestic.
        With some govt support and the UK crashing out without a deal,filling that void could easily double that number.
        Tilray is spending almost 30 million in Portugal,outdoor,greenhouse and indoor grow with estimates off 100 permanent jobs-why is that investment not going to Tullamore or Waterford ?

        1. Cian

          If the recreational:medicinal ration matches the USA markets at 80:20 then the Irish recreational is €1200m and the medicinal is €300m… [or the Irish market will charge 5 times are much per dose as the US?]

          As for why Portugal? Better weather perhaps – less reliance on greenhouses/artificial heating?

          1. Johnny Green

            Hi Cain,I used 1 Billion as it’s easily defended,1.5 may be optimistic but gives you some indicator of the market size.The holy grail now for weed companies is developing a drinkable transfer mechanism,to overcome the perceived social stigma of sparking up at parties / social events.
            In LA there is a weed consumption lounge/bar about open including what’s called a “dab bar” basically a fancy version of hot knifing hash.
            If the drinkable solution becomes viable and the consumption lounges/bars take off then it’s anyones guesstimate what the total market potential is.Weed or flower is becoming something people only smoke at home with extracts (oils/edibles/drinks) estimated take about a 70% market share.
            Portugal has a pro business govt unlike Irl:)
            Weather not really a factor,greenhouse grows more productive and only marginally more expensive per gram with more yield than outdoors.

  1. eoin

    Must say Johnny, these columns are fantastic for juxtaposing the lawful cannabis industry with the unlawful narcotics industry.

    Imagine if Daniel Kinahan wore a suit and tie rather than a sweatshirt and baseball cap. And imagine if his drug trafficking organisation, when they were setting up shop outside your local national school, ensured product was “sold at an introductory discount prices as well as in compassionate pricing program based on financial need’.”

    1. Johnny Green

      Hi Eoin,at least DK doesn’t have deal with the SEC who forced its CEO to remove his rather optimistic letter from its IPO…
      “As the largest pot IPO in the U.S. was on deck earlier this year, the Securities and Exchange Commission sought to cut down on Tilray Inc.’s soaring rhetoric and add disclosures about the side effects of weed, according to SEC documents made public this week. Among other changes, the SEC’s comments led the company to pull a letter to shareholders from Chief Executive Brendan Kennedy.“

      This is who the Irish govt has tasked by creating a vacuum with informing patients and doctors…

  2. class wario

    I am no fan of the likes of Thiel nor anybody else profiteering off the illness of others but I’m a bit sceptical also of people who call for legalised, taxable and regulated cannabis for medicinal purposes (this last bit is always emphasised) only to subsequently start throwing out ideas about private growers and a less regulated supply chain when push comes to shove. The thin end of the wedge comes to mind.

    1. curmudgeon

      “Alcohol makes you fat,weed won’t.” Think of the sales potential. Our govt wont legalise it until they’ve cheery picked who is going to profit, home growers can take a jump.

    2. V

      With all due respect Wario
      Johnny, over the series to date, has been very balanced in so far as he attempts to inform us of the entire market potential, the who’s who and the what’s what.

      Naturally Medicinal Use is going to dominate the dialogue because that’s were we are in the debate and the legislation.

      But there is no denying the inevitability
      So at least let the series Roll Out
      I’m particularly interested in the Agi and export potential myself

      But there’s no denying there is some serious cod-acting going on around our own plans.

      Look at what Johnny introduced today
      The role of venture capital funds
      And what is, imo anyway, a new Special Relationship between Leo’s Government and his pal Justin’s one in Canada
      And just look at the money these private Investors are making
      That Kennedy lad is worth over two billion and he’s bringing jobs and industry to Europe.
      Why aren’t we getting a toke of that?

      1. B9Com From No


        Johnny’s articles are exceptional despite the clear bias
        Well researched and well written , always stimulating and leave you wanting to do your own research

        1. V

          that bias that you mention Beniney
          Was pretty well flagged to the reader in advance

          His conflicts with the subject matter have always been fully disclosed
          and are a matter of public record

          Its something your won’t see in the likes of say
          Lucinda’s column in the SBP
          Or at a Marion Round Table

          Its called Transparency

          1. B9Com From No

            I agree

            I’m just being objective
            Many may not have been following Johnny since the word dot

  3. Clampers Outside!

    Let me blunt… now, yeah, Iike what he said wha’.

    Thanks Jonny for the update.

  4. eoin

    Donald Trump tweets

    ““Billionaire Tech Investor Peter Thiel believes Google should be investigated for treason. He accuses Google of working with the Chinese Government.” @foxandfriends A great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone! The Trump Administration will take a look!”

    Some dealers are really well-connected!

  5. Johnny Green

    WaPo this morning has fantastic piece on the opioid situation as its mainly white people its a health crisis unlike the crack epedimic which was a criminal issue,quite a lot ‘noise’ around medical cannabis and its effect on withdrawal/cravings…

    “Also in 2012, Cardinal Health attracted renewed attention from the DEA when it discovered that the company was again shipping unusually large amounts of painkillers to its Florida customers. The company had sold 12 million oxycodone pills to four pharmacies over four years.
    In 2011, Cardinal shipped 2 million doses to a pharmacy in Fort Myers, Fla. Comparable pharmacies in Florida typically ordered 65,000 doses per year.
    The DEA also noticed that Cardinal was shipping unusually large amounts of oxycodone to a pair of CVS stores near Sanford, Fla. Between 2008 and 2011, Cardinal sold 2.2 million pills to one of the stores. In 2010, that store purchased 885,900 doses — a 748 percent increase over the previous year. Cardinal did not report any of those sales as suspicious.”

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